After leaving their roles, cast members of Disney have shared some of the secrets they learned while working in the parks. These tidbits of information are sure to shock you.
Appearance Is Everything
When you accept a job at Walt Disney World, you agree to follow some pretty strict appearance guidelines. Disney wants to make sure all of their employees are always aware of the rules, so rumor has it that all the regulations and guidelines on how you can dress and act are stored in a pocket-sized book. Interestingly, a version of a Disney employee policy manual appears online. It states on one page that “Employees may not, without permission from an authorized member of management, disclose data or information of a proprietary or confidential nature concerning the Company to anyone not employed by the Company, or to another employee who has no need for or right to know such data or information.”
No word on whether the information we compiled for this list was released by current employees who were willing to risk their jobs, or from former employees who were left feeling disgruntled by the mouse for some reason.
Cast Members’ Code For “Go Screw Yourself”
If a Cast Member ever tells you to have “Have a Disney day,” you’ve probably really pissed them off. We can assume cast members made up this code in order to stay sane and let off some steam while also keeping their jobs.
Similarly, hearing a Disney employee talk about a “Treasured Guest” more than likely means that they’re attempting to share information about a visitor’s rude or out-of-line behavior with coworkers, in a coded way that won’t be understood by outsiders.
“The Kiss Goodnight” is code for “last call” at Disney World. About half an hour after the park is officially closed, an announcement is played followed by the song “When You Wish Upon A Star.” If you’re present for that song, it means you have overstayed your welcome and can assume that you’re being cursed about (silently) by the Cast Members waiting for you to get out of their hair.
The Costumes Run Really Small
Supposedly a vestige of sizing from the 1970s, the Disney Cast Member costumes are rumored to run very, very small. Whether this is the real reason, or there is actually some implied judgement in the costume sizes, employees learn to expect this blow and don’t take it too personally.
Also, Cast Members must share costumes, so all the people playing the same character have to be pretty close in size. So Disney is strict about who can play what role. In order to be a Disney Princess, it is said that you must be between 5’4″ and 5″8″ tall. While that’s a pretty average height for an adult woman, it definitely leaves a huge amount of potential employees out of the running. Men auditioning for characters like Prince Charming or Gaston should measure in between 6‘0 and 6’3” tall. Tiny Tinkerbell’s costume calls for actresses between 4’11” and 5’2”.
Cast Members Have To Learn Lines In Three
Not only does Disney demand perfection, but they demand it fast. The Cast Member on-boarding process includes spending three days with a Disney trainer getting every pause, inflection, and smile exactly how the script states it.
Cast Members must all take a class called “Traditions,” where they learn the history and traditions of the company and the theme parks it runs. Cast Members with certain roles also attend specific job-related courses at a site called Disney University. The training facility is actually larger than, and has a higher enrollment, than some community colleges! Disney also provides off-site education in the form of Mobile Training Units, which allow new employees to receive training on a computer rather than in person.
Most employees state that Orientation is the most fun part of their training process – they get their first behind-the-scenes look at the magical place that is Disneyland! How exciting.
Disney Characters Don’t Frown
When they’re on the clock, cast members have a slew of behaviors that are strictly prohibited. At the top of the list? Frowning. Disney not only wants to have control over what you look like, but they also want to control the emotions you convey. But we can’t blame them for this one. Because unless you’re Grumpy the dwarf or Eeyore, no one wants to visit Disney World to see an angry Prince Charming.
It’s not called the “Happiest Place on Earth” for nothing!
However, one brave employee named Natalie Zazula went public with a very candid tale of what it’s like to work at Disney while battling severe depression. Zazula, who works in a Disney resort as a greeter, admits that her job forces her to stay upbeat even on days she feels she can’t go on. “I try to be happy so that other people feel happy, too,” she says.
No Slouching On The Job!
Tired, sad, or less-than-alert body language is not an acceptable behavior when you’re on the clock at Disney. Unless they are bending down to sign a little visitor princess’ autograph book or to gracefully sweep up some litter, Disney cast members must exhibit good posture at all times. This might be easy enough for characters like Ariel who don’t have any extra weight on their shoulders, but for the soldiers in the holiday parade, that can’t be easy to keep perfectly upright at all times.
Those costumes are downright heavy, too, with some weighing in at nearly 50 pounds! In 2005, there were almost 300 injuries reported by Disney employees as a result of the toll heavy costumes took on their bodies. It might be kind of hard to keep a smile on your face if you’re in pain, but most Cast Members handle it like the pros they are!
When you’re working at Disney World, you can’t have any visible tattoos, your long hair must be neatly pulled back (unless it’s part of a costume and even then it’s probably a wig), and must wear neutral-colored nail polish. In addition, your costume must be kept immaculately clean. After all, there’s nothing to destroy the illusion of magic like a tat-covered guy with a bunch of black and chipped nail polish and a wrinkled Donald Duck costume.
It’s great that employees can at least have tattoos in places that aren’t visible under their costumes. Wonder how many of them sport anti-Mickey art on their chests or backs?
On April 1, 2016, a rumor began circulating the internet that Disney had actually banned all visible tattoos on guests as well. That turned out to be an April Fool’s Day prank, but the park’s official rules online say that “questionable” tattoos that could be offensive to other guests are, in fact, not allowed.
If you work at Walt Disney World, your job title will never be “Employee.” Instead, you’ll be known as a “Cast Member.” Because everything at Disney is a show, everyone who works there must always be in character. It’s just part of the magic!
This and other stringent guidelines are worth the extra effort, as Cast Members are rewarded for their service with park passes for themselves, their family, and their friends. One online report indicates that beginning in 2016, Disney employees can earn up to nine “One Day Park Hopper Passes” each calendar year. At about $170 a pop, the perk is nothing to sneeze at. Other benefits to working for the mouse include merchandise discounts and access to a special place in the park called “Mickey’s Retreat,” which has a pool, volleyball courts, and plenty of space to relax.
Doing The Dirty
And for a particularly shocking secret … Apparently, Cast Members at Walt Disney World sometimes become romantically involved, although the practice is not recommended. In fact, Cast Members have an expression about dating one another: DDD. As in, “Don’t Date Disney.”
It happens anyway and there are plenty of stories about Peter Pans and Wendys hooking up in supply closets and other unlikely trysts. Popular spots to hook up (supposedly) include the Haunted Mansion Doom Buggies (creepy), Tom Sawyer’s Island (rustic), and EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth (futuristic). But wait, don’t these employees know that there are cameras everywhere?
One former Disneyland employee who had portrayed Captain Jack Sparrow on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride was let go after a photo of him kissing his girlfriend surfaced on social media. The problem? Both of them were in full Disney costume (she played Ariel). Oops. Best to read the employee handbook before getting into this kind of trouble.
A Special Language
Any time a guest wanders into an area of the park that they aren’t supposed to see, the cast members refer to them as simply “going backstage.” This makes sense when you’re in a place where EVERYTHING is part of a theatrical production!
Here’s a fun language fact about Disney movies. Do you know which film has been translated into the most different languages? Here’s a hint: brrrrrr. It’s Frozen! The animated kiddie flick has been translated into 41 languages worldwide. To put that into perspective, The Lion King was only recorded in 19 languages other than English when it was first released in 1994. That’s quite a complex feat to scout and hire so many talented voice actors worldwide! Frozen’s language availabilities include Castilian, Catalan, Italian, German, Dutch, Bengali, Malay and Vietnamese, and many more.
Lots Of People Get Naked At Disney
OK, maybe “lots” is an exaggeration, but people strip down to their bare bottoms at Disney parks more often than you might expect. Teenagers, especially during special Graduation Night events, are notorious for getting naked. One former employee said that “when you’ve got a bunch of recent graduates all getting hammered and taking Molly at the Mad Tea Party, things are going to get out of hand. One time, a kid wearing a neon Snuggie… tore that Snuggie loose and started running flappingly through the park. If nothing else, this job has taught me that “be naked at Disneyland” is on a surprising number of bucket lists.”
The Splash Mountain ride is infamous for flashing… Disney takes a snapshot of people as their log flumes plummet down the long drop at the end of the ride, and guests apparently love to expose their bits for the photos.
A Sunken Jungle
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is sunken several feet into the ground! Though some may think this is due to central Florida’s iconic sinkholes, it’s actually because the slight depression creates a better environment for the animals and guests. Who knew!
There are lots of other amazing facts about Animal Kingdom that you might never have heard before. Located in Orlando, Florida, the nature-themed park occupies 500 acres and first opened on Earth Day in 1998. No plastic straws, cups, cup lids, or balloons are allowed in the attraction in an effort to keep all animals safe.
Animal Kingdom, oddly enough, is home to the most expensive roller coaster ever constructed in the world, at a cost of $100,000,000. Expedition Everest, Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, takes guests on a train journey through Mount Everest on a hunt for Yeti. The elaborate ride took six years to plan and construct.
White Powder Alert
Add this one to the “Disney code word” catalog. A White Powder Alert is how Cast Members notify one another when a guest is attempting to spread a loved one’s remains at the park. You read that right – many people attempt to dispose of human ashes right there at Disney World.
It makes sense that one of the most beloved spots on earth would be a popular final resting place for people to choose. Unfortunately, the practice of disposing of human cremains without permission is illegal. Park cameras catch most of these unauthorized final rites on camera, and whenever employees they see this happen it’s a huge disruption to Cast Members and to other guests (as the rides must be temporarily shut down and cleaned). According to park employees, the most common rides for this to happen on are the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.
No matter what, Disney World cast members cannot break character while they’re in costume. Even if they become ill or injured while at work! This is to avoid “breaking the magic” that the guest feel while they’re in the park.
Speaking of getting sick, Disney employees are frequently contracting illnesses from visitors. With a constant stream of guests from around the world, there are tons of cold and flu strains passing through the theme parks on any given day. Many workers say that their immune systems build up after being employed at Disney for several months.
The Cast Member handbook explicitly states that if an employee calls in sick and shows up as a visitor at any Disney park that same day, they will be automatically terminated. This is a rule that makes perfect sense but is apparently broken by rookie team members all the time. What a foolish mistake to make!
Stay tuned for a funny quip from Cast Members.
Another interesting tidbit about the “Disney language” is that Cast Members aren’t allowed to say the word “vomit.” If a guest has an accident on or during a ride, they simply get on the radio and say “Code V,” as to not make any more guests sick.
Apparently mixing a bunch of junk food, sugary drinks, and rides like the Teacups is a recipe for a whole lot of Code V’s. In the past, Cast Members referred to puke accidents as “Protein Spills.” We’re not sure which is less disgusting, actually.
A redditor recently shared this fond and disgusting Disney memory: “I worked in monorails. About a year or so ago, a guest got off at Epcot Station and then told the cast member at unload that he was going to be sick. The cast member opened up the trash can so he could puke in it easier. The guest then proceeded to take off his clothes and take a massive dump in the trashcan.” What code word would you use for this type of incident?
The Parade Route
The most common question asked of cast members at Walt Disney World is (try not to laugh) “What time is the 3 o’clock parade?” Cast members say that, even after quitting, they are NEVER able to forget what time that iconic parade is and its exact route.
One truly shocking Disney story is that a Cast Member was killed by a float during an afternoon parade. This took place in Orlando’s Magic Kingdom park in 2004. The tragedy occurred backstage, near the Splash Mountain attraction, and no visitors saw it happen. No rules appeared to have been broken, and the incident investigation revealed that the accident was simply a tragic occurrence. The Cast Member was an eight-year veteran of the park.
In 1999, a Magic Kingdom Skyway employee fell to his death from the ride as he was working on it. The Skyway ride was permanently shut down later that year.
All The Perks
Working at Disney World really does come with some great perks. You get free admission on your day off, discounts on food, beverages, movies, and merchandise, and discount cards for your family and friends. Half off pricing at Disney resorts worldwide and 40% off for family and friends is yet another amazing perk of working for Disney. Employees are even eligible for half off weddings held at the park, as long as they book well in advance (“years,” according to one website).
Disney Cruise Line employees get even more sweet benefits, such as discounts, 24-hour gym just for crew members, private dining area, laundry service, internet access, a special crew bar and rec room, private deck and pool, and even a crew-only beach at Castaway Cay! This is in addition to the on-ship accommodations and meals.
If you ever get a job at Walt Disney World, be sure and pay attention to the following slide. It’s an important one!
Until 2001, Disney cast members had to share underwear. Many of the costumes require special undergarments, such as tights, bike shorts, or jock straps, and employees claimed that the items weren’t always clean when they were issued. One employee named Gary opened up to the Associated Press about the issue, saying “I know I don’t want to share my tights and I don’t want to share my underwear.”
Some cast members allegedly contracted lice or scabies from their skivvies. Disney did not comment on the situation other to say that they would accommodate their employees’ wishes, which they did. Cast members can now take their underwear home and wash it themselves. A popular discussion thread on the website Snopes features a comment from a current Disney Cast Member: “I’ve worked there for six years, and we’ve never had to share underwear. Now, if you included ‘undergarments’ to mean the cotton gym shorts and t-shirts, then yes, they are worn by others. And cleaned before being able to be reissued. There’s a distinct crispness to the clean shorts and t-shirts that there definitely wouldn’t be if they were reused.” Phew.
Deaths In The Seven Seas Lagoon
According to a server who worked at Disney World in Orlando, Florida for many years, a drunk New Hampshire man got in a fight with his wife in 2004. While arguing, “the man fell off a dock at the Grand Floridian and drowned in Seven Seas Lagoon. They had to have divers find his body.” The 26-year-old man, identified later as Sean Slattery, disappeared on Wednesday and the body wasn’t found until Friday.
In 2016, a two-year-old toddler from Nebraska was attacked by a gator while on vacation with his family at the same resort. Lane Graves was pulled into the lagoon in front of his horrified parents, and his body discovered intact the following day.
Disney’s official statement regarding Graves’ death: “Everyone here at the Walt Disney Resort is devastated by this tragic accident. Our thoughts are with the family. We are helping the family and doing everything we can to assist law enforcement.”
“I Don’t Know” Isn’t An Answer
If you don’t know the answer to a guest’s question, you had better find out! Fortunately, Walt Disney World supplies its employees with extensive training so that they’re prepared to answer nearly any question a guest might have. And if an employee doesn’t know the answer for some reason, they can always call a manager!
If you think about it, “I don’t know” is a pretty rude and dismissive response for an entertainment industry employee to give to a customer anyway. A proper answer is almost always a phone call or Google search away.
Just in case you’re a rebel and want to know how to say that forbidden Disney phrase (“I don’t know”) in a few languages around the world, here’s a sampling of translations.
Spanish: no lo sé
Arabic: انا لا اعرف
Hungarian: Nem tudom
Italian: Non lo so
Russian: я не знаю
Vietnamese: tôi không biết
The Two-Finger Point
Legend has it that Walt Disney himself disliked it when people who make hand signals or gestures using only one finger. So, he required all his cast members to use two fingers while pointing, or, more simply, guide guests using an open palm.
Whoops! HiddenMickeys writer Chris Callac found an exception to this pointing rule. “Well, if you’ve ever been in American Adventure’s washrooms you know this isn’t entirely true. There are 3 or 4 signs with a hand pointing (with one finger) to the washrooms.”
But actor Tom Hanks, who played Disney in the film Saving Mr. Banks, says that the basis for this rule actually arose from Walt’s smoking habits. In most photos depicting the man pointing at things, he’s actually holding a cigarette – hence the two fingers he always used. Since smoking is no longer socially acceptable, Disney has airbrushed the cigarettes out of Walt’s hands in old photos.
For safety reasons, Disney cast members never refer to missing children as “lost children.” Instead, they are called “lost adults” and referred to as that on the radio system. This is to prevent any opportunistic kidnappings from taking place while the child is located!
Disney parks were recently awarded a patent for a device that can track visitors by videoing their shoes. This is both an effort to find out guests’ habits (which rides certain people tend to gravitate to, etc) but can also help thwart kidnappings. The theory here is that many times when a child is nabbed, their abductor will quickly change the kid’s shirt or clothes and even give a quick haircut to avoid them being recognized, but will rarely change children out of the shoes that they arrived to the park wearing.
Although many are creeped out by Disney’s attempts to increase surveillance, if the new technology prevents just one kidnapping it might be worth it!
All around Walt Disney World, there are countless hidden Mickey Mouse heads. Guests like to spend their time in the park searching for these secret symbols and keeping track of where they find them! It’s just another thing that makes Disney so special to visit.
Several websites are dedicated to locating and reporting these fun symbols. According to a HiddenMickey SquareSpace page, there are 50 symbols hidden in Disneyland’s ToonTown area alone. Spoiler alert, here is a roster of Hidden Mickeys in Frontierland:
Golden Horseshoe stage vent; Big Thunder Mountain Railroad; S.S. Mark Twain between the smokestacks; S.S. Mark Twain River Excursions sign; Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island cave entrance; Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island on chimney; Rivers of America; Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante; Big Thunder Ranch Petting Zoo knot hole; Big Thunder Ranch House reigns & bridles; Big Thunder Ranch House horseshoe pile; Shooting Exposition; Pioneer Mercantile; and Critter Country.
Whew, that is a lot of Hidden Mickeys!
Disney Cast Members are welcome to use social media as much as they want… when they’re off the clock and as long as they don’t discuss anything about Disney. Social media and personal electronics are strictly banned while at work, and Cast Members can NEVER discuss their jobs on social media. EVER!
Rules about sharing Disney information on social media are so strict that Cast Members are not even allowed to talk about which character they portray! In one highly-publicized 2016 case, a Disney staffer was fired for posting a photo of a sign advising other employees how to respond when asked about alligators by guests. The sign read ““If a guest asks if we have gators in the water around Tom Sawyer’s island (or any other bodies of water), the correct and appropriate response is, ‘Not that we know of, but if we see one, we will call Pest Management to have it removed.’ …Please do not make jokes with our guests about this.” No wonder the Cast Member was booted for sharing such sensitive information.
Another electronics-based fact is coming up shortly!
Keeping Pedophiles Out of the Park
According to one former server, lifeguards and security staff in the park are instructed to keep an eye out for pedophiles who may be hanging around the water park just to scope out the young kids. Gross.
Unfortunately, most people who prey on children keep that fact a secret, and some of them even gain employment at Disney and at other places filled with kids. A 2014 CNN investigation, as well as several recent sting investigations, revealed this ugly truth.
“We have extensive measures in place, including pre-employment and ongoing criminal background checks and computer monitoring and firewalls. The numbers reported by CNN represent one one-hundredth of one percent of the 300,000 people we have employed during this time period. We continue to work closely with law enforcement and organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children [NCMEC] as we constantly strengthen our efforts,” Disney responded in an official statement.
The director of the NCMEC agreed that screening predators who have no criminal backgrounds can be extremely challenging.
The Disney Scoop
Every cast member at Disney is responsible for picking up trash and placing it in one of the many trash cans (they are placed every 25 feet)! But, they aren’t allowed to simply stop and lean over to collect the garbage. It has to be picked up in one swift and graceful movement. Cast members say this takes a while to master!
Once learned, however, Disney’s particular way of doing things can be hard to forget. One former employee returned to Disney World as a guest years later and had this to say about her trip back. “Later, at Small World, I smiled silently at an older woman whose friend was fumbling with a camera while trying to take a group picture. The woman asked her friend to hand me the camera, and I took the picture, with everyone included. A couple of lost guests stopped to ask me questions. I picked up a piece of trash from the street.”
No Selfies Allowed!
If you’re caught taking pictures in your costume, you will be fired immediately. Apparently, Disney executives are really strict about this rule! If they find out about any selfies you took backstage, you can expect to kiss the Magic Kingdom goodbye for good! Hey, maintaining their image is hard enough without disgruntled employees posting unapproved (or even inappropriate pictures) of “backstage” activities.
Guests, however, take their Disney photos really seriously. This story from a former (1997) Cast Member is pretty shocking. “A family attacked a Pluto – pushed her into the fountain. I didn’t actually see the attack, but just got to deal with the aftermath backstage. Later Pluto told me the family was mad that she had to take her break after they had waited to get a picture. I think Pluto either broke her arm or her leg – I can’t remember. The family was arrested.
Have you ever wondered why certain parts of Disney World have specific smells? Well, wonder no further! Special machines called “Smellitizers” distribute pleasant scents throughout the park to mask the gross types of smells that can occur in crowded areas, such as garbage or bathroom odors. The patented Smellitizers are located in the underground system of tunnels and pipe their pleasing fragrances up into key areas of the park. Commonly used scents include freshly baked cookies, salty sea air, oranges, vanilla, popcorn, and burning wood. There are more seasonal smells, too, such as peppermint, candy corn, caramel, gingerbread.
Now, an unrelated shop called Anthology Candles sells products that it claims mimic the scent of some of your favorite Disney attractions: Animal Kingdom, Main Street Bakery, and Belle’s Library are just three varieties offered by the specialty retailer.
Would you want your home to smell like the Animal Kingdom?
A Secret Store?
When a guest leaves an item behind at Walt Disney World, it is stored for a specified length of time. After that, though, any cast member who wants it has the opportunity to buy it in a special store. All the profits are donated to charity, proving that Disney really does make magic with everything they do.
Employees make every effort to reunite items with their owners before selling them. One grateful guest whose daughter lost an engraved pocket mirror wrote, “We inquired about the mirror after work the following day since Lost and Found is actually open until 7 PM. The person on the line was very helpful and knew about the item we were missing. The mirror was carefully wrapped, packed and placed in the mail, free of charge, to be delivered to our house.” She went on to say that her daughter became an even bigger Disney fan because of this special treatment.
Must Have The Perfect Autograph
Autographs are a big deal to Disney fans! Some of them even purchase special books for character signatures and travel the parks in an attempt to collect every single one.
Cast members not only have to personify the attitudes and appearances of the characters they’re playing, but they also have to learn to write like them, too. In fact, Disney provides training for all Cast Members to help them perfect their character’s signature.
Here’s yet another funny story shared by a former Cast Member: “A woman was dressed as Snow White in the parks, belligerently drunk and pretending to be the character by signing autographs and taking pictures with people. She was escorted out by the PD and caused a huge scene and resisted arrest. There’s a photo hung up backstage in one of the parks of it.” Sounds like someone didn’t attend autograph training.
No Tweeting Allowed
In order to make the experience as real as possible for guests of Disney World, cast members are not allowed to talk about their roles at all on social media. So if you were hoping to catch some behind-the-scenes dirt on Peter Pan’s Instagram, think again.
Interestingly, the same rule doesn’t apply to guests. Says one former Disney Cast Member: “You never knew when the casting department was going to come into the park and watch you—they came out of nowhere—or something might end up on YouTube. If a character does something a parent believes is wrong, that’s the video that ends up on YouTube. I was on YouTube after I sat in a lady’s stroller. It’s something I often did, and parents would laugh and take pictures. But management came to me and said, ‘It looks like you’re sitting down on the job, and we can’t have that.’”
Seems like a bit of a double standard, doesn’t it?
Cast Members Can’t Say Who They Play
Cast members aren’t even allowed to say which character they play. If asked, they’re only allowed to say “I’m friends with [character]” or “I hang out with [character].”
Even on a Disney employee’s day off, if they’re at the park and in their regular street clothing, they are not to acknowledge which character they play when they’re working. A former Captain Jack Sparrow who later lost his job for some other Disney infractions, shared this story with the LA Times: “They said, ‘You cannot give out information about auditioning for Jack Sparrow.’ I also had to sign documents that stated if I was in the park and out of costume, I could not tell people that I played Jack Sparrow. I was told that the thing for employees to say was, ‘I am friends with Jack Sparrow.’”
Anything to preserve the magic.
The Music Stays On … Always
You know when you hear a song played one too many times on the radio and it stops being catchy and starts being annoying? For Disney employees, the music never stops. Even when the park’s closed, the music keeps going. Yet somehow they remain friendly!
If you’ve ever ridden the It’s A Small World ride, you’ve experienced just a fraction of the annoyance that Disney employees must feel when they’re exposed to the same song over, and over, and over again.
It’s a world of laughter, a world of tearsIt’s a world of hopes, it’s a world of fearThere’s so much that we shareAnd it’s time we’re awareIt’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after allIt’s a small world after allIt’s a small world after allIt’s a small small world
And repeat… forever.
Disney Hollywood Studios Stores Walt’s Plane
Cast members can pay homage to this history-soaked plane any time they’re backstage. Used by Walt to do things like scout spots in Florida for what is now Disney World, it must be said that being privy to this plane is a perk of the gig. Dubbed “The Mouse,” the white airplane has a Mickey logo painted on its tail.
Guests can also visit the iconic plane, if they spring for The Backlot Tour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The Grumman Gulfstream 1 model was purchased by Walt in 1964, and he and his wife decorated it together. Seating 15 passengers and equipped with sofas and a desk, the plane was the perfect vehicle to locate the perfect venue for Disney’s second American theme park. Walt also visited the 1964 New York World’s Fair in “The Mouse.” Walt used the plane to soar over Puerto Rico as well, which he said looked like the perfect inspiration for his upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.
Guests Aren’t Always Happy
This should come as no shock. Expensive admission tickets, $10 sodas, long lines, and unexpected mechanical problems on favorite rides can quickly put a damper on visitors’ moods. Add to that the regular temper tantrums that kids throw on a daily basis when they’ve missed their naptimes, and you’ve got yourself an entire theme park full of sad and/or pissed-off folks.
A redditor and former Disney employee shared this particularly sad tale from his time at the park: “This incident occurred at King Stefan’s Dining Hall in Cinderella’s Castle. A family of four were seated, then halfway through the dinner, the husband stood up, tapped his glass for attention, then proceeded to announce that his wife of 15 years had been cheating on him for over a year. He then motioned for his children, paid the waitress, and left his wife crying at the table.”
The Dress Code Is Strict, Even When You’re Not
During training or any other hours when cast members are not required to be in full costume, they’re still expected to dress in business casual attire. The punishment for breaking these rules? Putting on a costume. A little embarrassing when you’re in a classroom training session, no?
The Disney Careers website calls their preferred dress code “The Disney Look.” For women, the Lookbook calls for “Dress, suit, Capri or dress pants with classic- style blouse are preferred.” However, there’s a caveat about the Capri pants: “Cotton twill, cargo, leggings or other casual styles of Capri pants do not present a professional image and are therefore not permitted.” Footwear should be closed-toe or have a small peep-toe opening.
Men are asked to wear suit or dress pants with a collared, professional shirt. Socks and dress shoes are a required part of the look.
Disney World Cast Members Wear Flair
Cast members at Walt Disney World, the Disneyland Resort, and Disneyland Paris are required to wear a lanyard with at least 12 pins on it at all times. The pins are to be traded with guests, so if you see a staff member with a pin you’d like, just ask if they’re willing to trade. The company’s official website says that the Disney Pin Trading program is “an exciting, interactive experience where our Guests can trade Disney pins with our Disney Cast Members and other Guests. It’s fun for the whole family and CREATES cherished ‘pin pals’ to last a lifetime!”
As with everything else Disney, there are rules and regulations for the Pin Trading program as well. Pins must show Disney insignia (or one of their affiliate companies, such as ESPN), should be in good condition, and must be traded one a time in a hand-to-hand transaction.
No Patchy Beards, No Long Hair, No Shaved
If you’re working on the ability to grown a full beard, you’ll have to go clean-shaven as a Disney employee. Their facial hair rules require hair to be fully grown in, it must be neatly trimmed, and there is no grooming allowed. In other words, no goatees. A former Magic Kingdom (Disney World Orlando) Captain Jack Sparrow says that instead of allowing him to grow his own (real) facial hair to match his character’s unkempt look, he was forced to glue fake hair to his face. Which he said felt terrible out in the hot Florida sun.
Not only does Disney have rules for beards, they also have rules on the length of male cast members’ hair. For the guys who work at Disney, hair must not be so long that it extends over their ears or falls into their eyes. But apparently they allow Gaston to be an exception?
Female Employees Have Strict Grooming
There are also some pretty strict rules when it comes to female cast members’ hair. Especially when it comes to the kinds of hairstyles cast members who are not in costume can wear. Female cast members may not shave their eyebrows, and hair must be neatly brushed. Braids are allowed, but cannot have beads in them. Earrings cannot be any bigger than a quarter, and fingernails must be kept trimmed to an eraser length or shorter.
Even when not in costume, there are wardrobe guidelines that employees must adhere to. Clothing must not be too form-fitting, must be clean and in good condition. Shirts without sleeves should have straps at least three inches wide.
There is a reason for all the stringent appearance guidelines. Disney spokeswoman Angela Bliss says that “the Disney look is a fresh, clean and approachable look, ensuring that every guest feels comfortable with our entire cast.”
The Auditioning Process Can Be Brutal
Think you can just walk into Disney’s casting department and tell them which character you’d like to play? Not so fast. The auditioning process takes anywhere between one and six hours. One woman interviewed by Vice had auditioned (unsuccessfully) to be a princess at a Disney park and described her experience with the process: “When we arrived, I immediately noticed that all the Disney employees resembled a first draft of a cartoon character, the ones the artists sketch and then instantly crumple and toss away. Every person who had authority at the audition looked like that, and had this unbelievable amount of pep. They were cheerleaders for the world, life coaches for life itself.”
Those auditioning for “face characters,” meaning not hidden behind a furry mask or costume, can expect the process to last for two days. They’ll compete with several hundred other Disney hopefuls.
Cast Members Like To Speed
Put the pedal to the metal! It’s been reported that on Disney property, the Disney police pull over more cast members and other Disney employees than actual guests. Maybe they’re just really excited to get to work? Or maybe they’re usually running late. Slow down, people! It’s better to be a few minutes late than get repeated speeding tickets, probably.
Visitors can be blame for some traffic-related instances at Disney, however. In 2016 at Disney World in Orlando, two guests on their way north to the park crossed the center line and ended up hitting the pole holding up the official “Walt Disney World: Where Dreams Come True” sign. The welcome sign was knocked over and traffic into the park was brought to a standstill for some time while emergency crews worked to clear everything. Hopefully the incident didn’t dampen anyone’s dream vacation that day!
There’s No Crossover Between Worlds
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Harry Potter and Peter Pan were friends? When in character, Cast Members are not allowed to talk about or acknowledge characters or brands outside the Disney universe. Actually, Cast Members from different areas of the same park are not supposed to interact. So even the King of Pop was just another guy.
In rare situations, Disney employees have made exceptions for guests. Unfortunately, the guests aren’t always as thankful or gracious as they could be. Here’s a story from someone whose sister is a former Disney World Cast Member:
“She said one time in a gift store, a parent asked if their son with cancer could meet Darth Vader. After my sister told them her store does not have a Darth Vader costume or even any Star Wars memorabilia, they freaked out and asked for her manager. After about an hour of waiting the child is greeted by my sister in a Darth Vader costume that came from across the park in a Star Wars section. Once greeted the parent told the child, ‘I knew we wouldn’t have to walk to the other side of the park! I love cancer.'” Disgusting!
Disney Wants To Help You Spend
There is no shortage of amazing things to buy in the many, many gift shops located throughout every Disney park. In order to make purchases even easier, Disney has a policy that anything you buy on site can be delivered to your hotel if you’re staying at a Disney resort. Alternately, you can have them delivered to the front of the park for you to pick up on your way out. How convenient.
Cast members can make purchases easier, too. It’s an insider secret that if you ask nicely, a cast member will bring your purchases to the front of the park for you so you can pick them up on your way out. You can’t say Disney doesn’t want all of your shopping dreams to come true! Although it seems a bit mean-spirited to ask little Tinkerbell to lug a bunch of heavy shopping bags around the park…
Even Princesses Take Out The Trash
It might not be the most glamorous job, but everyone is expected to pull their weight when it comes to keeping Disney parks clean. Even Snow White. Unless, of course, she has the dwarves around to help her. In this photo, it looks like Alice is less than thrilled by the task at hand.
It’s a little unfathomable that litter would be such a problem in Disney parks. Visitors are never more than 30 steps away from trash receptacles, so it’s mind boggling that so many would toss their waste on the ground rather than using one of the many, many cans available.
Side note: Disney is known for its commitment to the environment. The company recycles more than a dozen types of materials at its various resorts, and diverts more than half of its waste from landfills! That’s pretty cool… way to go green, Disney.
Is There A Disney Jail?
Multiple reports and rumors have come out over the years claiming that Disney has a special jail for visitors who are caught misbehaving.
The general consensus in online discussions about the existence of a Disney Jail is that the parks have detention rooms but not official “jails” per se. According to one employee who spoke candidly on reddit, the detention centers are frequently used during graduation nights or other times that guests smuggle booze into the park, overindulge, and are caught engaging in some un-Mickeylike behavior. And actress Blake Lively once confessed to David Letterman that she’d been held in Disney Jail after being caught trying to sneak into the park, saying “My brother thought it was a really good idea for us to go to Disneyland… So he put hairspray on the stamps of someone who came out, and then you put your hands together [to transfer the stamp to your hand] and then you go through the turnstile and we went through. Then there were these guys in normal outfits that said, ‘Come with us,’ and we went into Disney jail.”
No Eating on the Job
It’s hard work smiling at passers by, handing out signatures, and posing for pictures with dozens upon dozens of sticky-fingered kids. In fact, that kind of tiring work will make a person very hungry. And that hungry feeling can’t be made any easier with all the aromatic and enticing Smellitizers around.
But for Cast Members, eating while on the clock and visible to guests is strictly forbidden. When it’s time for a Cast Member to take his or her break and they finally get to eat, they have special cafeterias and breakrooms “backstage” and down in the utilidors. At the Magic Kingdom at Disney World in Orlando, for example, there are five different employee restaurants. These eateries feature ever-changing menus, snacks, beverages, and very reasonable prices. Cast Members are also eligible to receive 20-40% discounts at visitor restaurants on their days off, as long as they show valid ID.
Or Chewing Gum
Even if a Cast Member needs a quick breath freshener or even a tiny sugar pick-me-up, a small infraction such as chewing a piece of gum can be cause big trouble with their employer. So they can’t slouch, eat or even chew gum. Essentially, cast members often have to act like the characters they’re portraying – perfect, fictional cartoon characters.
In fact, even visitors can’t purchase gum in Disney parks. It simply isn’t sold anywhere. The gunky stuff is a mess to clean up, so it’s completely understandable that park officials would want to limit the amount of gum that’s brought into their pristine wonderlands. So any guests who feel the need to chew gum should bring their own from home. Not to mention, even if Disney did sell chewing gum it would probably cost $20 a pack. So here’s one more reason to plan ahead, party people!
Absolutely No Smoking
This rule is quite a bit more understandable than some of the others. Smoking is known to be extremely harmful for health, and second-hand smoking’s effects on children, especially, can be devastating. As smoking laws get more and more strict, there are fewer places smokers can indulge in public. So unless a cast member was in a designated smoking section, we probably wouldn’t want them smoking anyways. But as it stands, they’re not allowed to smoke in character or on the clock at all.
Interestingly, Walt Disney was a lifelong smoker and he eventually died from lung cancer. According to his longtime confidante and nurse Hazel George, Walt once said, “You’re right about one thing. Smoking and drinking are sins. Because you are one of God’s creatures and if you don’t take care of the body He gave you, you are committing a sin.”
Time to put that hookah down, Mr. Caterpillar.
Walt’s Not Into Alt
If you’re into alternative body modifications, it might be hard to get a job as a Disney cast member. Things like visible tattoos and piercings (other than one ear piercing on each ear for women) are not allowed if you want to work for Disney.
The Disney Internships & Programs website goes into further detail about body modifications. It reads: “Intentional body modification or alteration for the purpose of achieving a visible, physical effect that disfigures, deforms or similarly detracts from a professional image is prohibited. Examples include, but are not limited to: visible tattoos, brands, body piercing (other than traditional ear piercing for females), tongue piercing or splitting, tooth filing, earlobe expansion (ear gauging), disfiguring skin implants. Tattoos must be discreetly and completely covered at all times. Jewelry, spacers, retainers or plugs are not permitted in any body piercing while working.”
The mouse is really cracking down on body modifications, huh? Some of these regulations are pretty understandable though, as they could be scary to small children who haven’t been exposed to more extreme body modifications like tongue splitting.
Disney Won’t Issue Final Paychecks Until You
If you’re leaving your role at a Disney park, the company has a policy not to hand out your last paycheck until you’ve returned all costumes. However, it’s rumored that they don’t actually enforce this rule very strictly.
Each of the Disney parks has its very own costume department. Cast Members are each allowed to have five work uniforms (costumes) checked out at a time. This includes full sets of accessories, such as hats, jackets, or gloves, that might be part of the full costume. Dirty or wrinkled costumes can be brought in and swapped out for fresh, clean ones. Some of them are machine washable, so many Cast Members launder their own costumes at home. Shoes are not included with many of the costumed looks, but Disney provides strict guidelines for shoes that are supplied by individual Cast Members.
You’ll Never See Two Of One Character At Once
If there’s one thing Disney is good at, it’s organization. Which characters are out and about in the park and where they are is something that’s organized to the very last minute. Plus, cast members have a schedule with them at all times. Looking for Ariel? Pooh will know where to find her.
Characters from different movies are also not supposed to be seen together, to keep that magical continuity flowing when visitors are present. The former Disneyland Captain Jack Sparrow recounted this story: “There is a big thing in the park about not being visually linked to another character. You’re told to stay in your area. But Pluto was a friend of mine, and one day he came over to see me. We posed for photos, and the next day he told me it was on YouTube. Eventually he got fired.”
In Fact, If Two Are Seen Together, They’ll Be
Disney wants to create the illusion that the Snow White you see is the only Snow White in the world. So if two Snow Whites accidentally cross paths in the park, it’s considered a dismissal-worthy infraction. Disney characters: you’d better check those schedules carefully before you go wandering around the parks!
Also, you might have noticed that Disney Cast Members only use their first names on the company’s name tags. With so many employees staffing the parks at any given time, you can bet that many of those first names are duplicated among workers. Disney solves this problem by allowing all the people who share first names with others to choose new names to use while they’re working. Hey, that’s pretty fun! This particular rule came about because Walt Disney preferred to be called by only his first name, “Walt.”
Can’t See? Wear Contacts.
Surprise, surprise. Disney has some rules about eye wear. The official employee manual reads: “‘Eyeglasses and sunglasses should not detract from the costume or contradict the theme of the show.’
Glasses that have logos, are brightly colored, or are flashy in any way are not allowed when on the clock. And it’s probably safe to say that Cinderella can’t wear glasses at all. So if you work at Disney and you need help seeing, contacts might be easiest. Or even lasik surgery. Or adopting and training a seeing eye dog, if all else fails and glasses aren’t an option. Just don’t get any of those creepy colored or designed contacts… I doubt those would fly at any of Disney’s family-friendly parks.
I don’t know though… I think Belle or Ariel would look pretty cute in nerdy girl specs. Also, does Disney pay for bespectacled Cast Members to get contacts or Lasik instead?
If You Need To Be Sick, Keep It Secret
Disney cast members are never allowed to take off their costume heads when they’re on the clock, even if they’re feeling sick or faint. So who knows how many Donald Ducks, who are smiling on the outside, are actually throwing up inside their costumes. Characters who do need to leave are told to cover one eye with their hand and raise the other arm in order to alert supervisors that something is wrong.
And it’s easy to see why one might become sick while wearing those elaborate Disney costumes. One former employee, who played several parts during his time at the park, ranked the comfort of the costumes he wore daily in that brutal Florida heat.
Most uncomfortable costume: Woody by a landslide
Hottest costume: Tigger. 90+ degrees in a hot sweaty carpet
Most comfortable costume: Green army man or Baloo
A Family Got Free Passes When A Man Died
Legend has it that a man once had a fatal heart attack in a Disney World store, and cast members brought his grieving family backstage to give them privacy. Seeing “behind the scenes” is rare enough, but supposedly the family were given lifetime passes, too.
Death actually isn’t that rare at Disneyland, but the parks do their best to hide tragedies like these from their paying visitors.
In 1966, a 19-year-old named Guy Cleveland had the bright idea to hitchhike on a monorail to get into the Magic Kingdom for Grad Night. Unfortunately for the poor guy, he didn’t notice an oncoming train or hear the warning shouts from a security officer could see the entire tragedy unfold. Cleveland 40 feet along the track, with his body shredded to unrecognizable pieces. It was a sad night to be at Disney World.
Disney Doesn’t Joke About Shoplifting
There are plenty of stories of kids stealing a couple things from a Disney World store, and later in the afternoon, being quietly approached by security guards who ask them to, “Come with me, please.” And from what we know about how strict they are, it can’t end well.
If guests are caught shoplifting, or breaking the law in other ways, they can be permanently banned from Disney property.
At least one legal defense firm has a page dedicated to stealing from Disney. According to Orlando’s Umansky Law Firm, “If you are caught taking more than three dollars worth of Disney property, you can be charged with a Grand Theft. The maximum penalty for a Grand Theft is five years probation, five years prison or a 5,000.00 dollar fine. If you are convicted, the judge is required to suspend your drivers license as well.” Better not risk it, folks.
And Be Careful With That Flask
The security guards are on the lookout for undercover drinking, too. And they’re not always the obvious guys in uniform, either. There are plenty of undercover security guards watching your every move while you make your way throughout the park.
In The Magic Kingdom, there’s only one restaurant that serves booze: Be Our Guest. The Beauty and the Beast-themed eatery says that it serves “Meals Fit for a Queen – or Beast!” Serving a variety of wines and beers, Be Our Guest also offers a non-alcoholic fruit punch for $19.00. Hmmm.
Disneyland California also has one alcohol-friendly establishment, Club 33, located in the New Orleans Square section of the park. Membership at the private club is a little pricey: individuals pay $50,000 up front in addition to $15,000 in annual dues. But hey, that price includes reciprocal privileges at Disney Tokyo’s Club 33. Not a bad deal.
There Are Tunnels Below Disney World
Just beneath Disney World lie a myriad of tunnels connecting different parts of the park that Cast Members use to travel around unseen. The tunnels are officially called “utilidors,” and they are not actually underground. They’re on ground level, and the park as we know it is on the second level. It’s very difficult to build underground in soggy Florida swampland.
Down in the utilidors, you’ll find the Mouseketeria (where Cast Members eat on their breaks out of view of the guests), the animation control station, a hair salon, electric go-carts, piles of cash, and LOTS of costumes stored. A lot, as in 1.2 million outfits!
The 392,040 square feet system of tunnels is convenient for sure, but it’s also been reported by employees that the utilidors are often smelly, hot, and full of trash. Ew. Good thing it’s all out of sight of park guests.
Cinderella’s Castle Has A Secret Suite
Originally built as a place for Walt and his family to stay when they visited Disney World, the decadent Cinderella Castle Suite is available to rent by invitation only (or by the lucky people who win contests to stay overnight). Talk about a dream come true! Unfortunately, Walt passed away before construction was complete and never got to stay in the suite.
Many celebrities have stayed in the luxurious accommodations over the years. A partial list (Disney is very secretive about its guests!) includes: Katy Perry, Tom and Suri Cruise, Kevin Jonas and his wife Danielle, Neil Patrick Harris with his husband David Burtka and their twins, and Nick Cannon with then-wife Mariah Carey and their twins.
Disneyland California has its own version: the Dream Suite in Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Located above the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, each room of the Dream Suite is outfitted in the theme of different Disney movies.
If You Hear A Loudspeaker Announcement, It’s
Like we said before, Disney’s policy is to never, ever turn off the music. However, they do make an exception for emergencies, like when a kid is lost. So if you hear the music stop, listen up.
Many of us remember what we were doing on 9/11/01, but guests who were at Disney that terrible day had a pretty surreal experience. One former Cast Member said that employees were directed to close all attractions and usher visitors off the premises, but were not to tell them what had happened. He said, “By the way, the announcement that was made (over the public address system in the theme parks that morning did NOT mention anything about what had happened or why the parks were closing.” The announcement only sad that “Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Magic Kingdom is now closed. Please follow the direction of the nearest Cast Member.”
The current official voices of Disneyland belong to a husband-and-wife duo named Bill Rogers and Camille Dixon. Before them, Jack Wagner was the official park announcer for nearly 70 years.
The Kilimanjaro Safari Ride Could Be Killer
Kilimanjaro Safari is an attraction at Disney World Orlando’s Animal Kingdom park.It’s an actual off-roading adventure that mimics a real safari. When you’re on that particular ride and the driver says to stay in your seat, they mean it. There’s a spot where you cross a bridge over crocodiles, and drivers are trained to drive away quickly if anyone falls in so that other guests don’t see the potentially gruesome outcome.
Trust us, you don’t want to be left behind on this one.
One reddit thread involves a driver for the Kilimanjaro Safari who detailed an experience that one of his colleagues had while operating a vehicle. “She was doing an empty round as there were very few guests that day and when she stopped for the White Rhinos to pass, one decided to ram her truck!!! Very lucky that there was no one in there! The rhinos have also been known to shave their horns on the Wild Africa Trek trucks. Scary as all hell!”
The Disney-Pixar animated film Ratatouille might have been a huge box-office hit, but one park visitor in October 2016 wasn’t thrilled to spot a real-life rat in a dining area of Disneyland. Twitter user @hannaahelisee took a photo of the rodent and posted for all the world to seem with the caption: “pay my college tuition and i’ll delete @Disneyland.” Sorry, lady, rats are an unfortunate part of life. Let’s take a look at your kitchen and see how clean it is.
Supposedly, Disneyland has a crew of more than 200 feral cats that roam the parks at night, helping to control the inevitable rodent population that thrives on guests dropping food all day long. Disney feeds the cats and provides vital veterinary services such as spaying and neutering, but the company has been somewhat reluctant to publicly confirm the presence of its many feline exterminators. They are spotted out and about by guests occasionally.
A Secret Disney Menu!
Disney fans will no doubt be excited to learn that like many popular restaurants, the theme park also offers a secret menu just for visitors who are “in the know”. Menu offerings include such delights as Ice Cream Nachos (Frontierland at Disneyland), Mac ‘n’ Cheese Bread Bowl (Pacific Wharf Café at California Adventure), and an “Electra”-fried Spicy Chicken Sandwich (Carnation Café on Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland).
Other options include a Galactic Burger served “Alien Style” at The Galactic Grill in Tomorrowland at Disneyland and a “Firefly” Corn Chip Chili Cheese Pie with Jalapeños, available at Refreshment Corner on Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland.